July 30, 1965 is a day that will go down as one of America's greatest days. After a truly bipartisan vote in both the House of Representatives and the US Senate, an amendment to the Social Security Act setting up our nations first public health insurance program passed and was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The Social Security Amendments of 1965
created two health insurance programs. Title XVIII of the act created what is now knows as Medicare parts A and B
, the single-payer national health program for senior citizens age 65 and older. Title XIX of the act created what is now known as Medicaid
, a state and federal partnership that provides free health care to our nations poor and chronically ill. The latter is what this article will focus on.
President Johnson's "Great Society
" initiatives were instituted to address the growing inequality between the wealthy and poor citizens in America, which we are unfortunately grappling with to this day. Before Medicaid was enacted in to law, the poor and other downtrodden citizens in America did not have adequate access to health care. Many people mistakenly believe that Medicaid is strictly for the poor, but that is far from the truth. Medicaid also provides access to health care for many low-income children, the mentally, and physically disabled. Due to Medicaid being a Federal-State partnership, qualification for the program is dependent on what state an individual resides in, unlike Medicare.
Medicaid has been a true boon to our society from its inception and has given countless poor and disabled citizens access to health care that they would not have received had the program not been in place. The law has been modified dozens of times
to greatly expand access to other demographics that struggled to receive quality health care., but the crux of the program never changed and provided a safety net to millions of citizens.
The only problem is that millions of Americans were still uninsured for one reasons or another. They made too much money to meet the programs strict income requirements, but made too little to be able to afford health insurance on the private market. Or they could not obtain health care because of a pre-existing condition. The Affordable Care Act of 2010
tried to address this issue head on by dramatically expanding Medicaid access to our nations poor and disabled that earned income up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line. While the law was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama, the Supreme Court
dealt a major blow when they sadly ruled that the portion of the law forcing the states to expand their Medicaid roles was unconstitutional. Not surprisingly, many Republican leaning states quickly opted out of Medicaid expansion
. Nineteen Republican leaning states have opted out of expansion and six other's are currently debating expansion while millions of poor people wait on the sidelines.
Let's not allow the politics of the Affordable Care Act to blind these politicians actions. It is high time for these Republican states to stop playing politics and recognize that their poor citizens deserve quality health care just as much as anyone else in this country does.